Dieter Rams: 10 principles for good design

Dieter Rams is considered to be one of the most influential industrial designers of the twentieth century.  Rams has been given numerous awards, most recently the Lifetime Achievement Medal at London Design Festival 2013.  As Head of Design at Braun, the consumer electronics company, Rams set out to design useful products which would be easy to operate, and enjoyable to use.

During the 1970s, Rams became increasingly concerned about the world around him, and his impact as a designer.  In 1976, Rams gave a speech in New York about responsible design.  In the speech, he highlighted the  “increasing and irreversible shortage of natural resources”, noting that good design avoids waste.  People are central to Rams approach to design, and he made a link between our physical surroundings and our wellbeing, “I imagine our current situation will cause future generations to shudder at the thoughtlessness in the way in which we today fill our homes, our cities and our landscape with a chaos of assorted junk.”

Rams distilled his views into his ten most important principles for good design, sometimes referred to as the “Ten Commandments”.

Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design makes a product understandable.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is long-lasting.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.

Rams described the complex, interdependent systems that we inhabit, “Everything interacts and is dependent on other things; we must think more thoroughly about what we are doing it and why we are doing it”.  This statement is true both at the macro level of society, and the micro level of the home, a product itself must be functional, but it also has to function in its context, the home.

350The first product Rams designed for Vitsoe was the 606 Universal Shelving System (1960) which is functional in itself, but also adaptable to many environments, whether home, office, or bridging the two.  The 606 Universal Shelving System moves with you, with the units being reconfigured, and added to, to suit your space.  Our units are on their third rehang, and have sat as easily in a modern office as they have in the drawing room of a Victorian home.  The unobtrusive design lends itself to any situation.  The storage equivalent of the perfect little black dress!

Photo credits: A photo of our copy of “Dieter Rams: Ten Principles of Good Design”; image of 606 Universal Shelving System from